In the seven weeks since Toronto police launched a summer blitz following a pair of high-profile shootings, crime in the city has dropped dramatically.
On Friday morning, Chief Bill Blair released a series of statistics that show declines in everything from homicides to assaults to thefts. During the period from July 26 to Sept. 9, Toronto averaged 6.4 gun-related murders in the seven previous years; in 2012, there were two.
Tellingly, however, officers also made fewer arrests than usual, suggesting their mere presence on the streets – combined with the added public attention on crime – may have been a deterrent.
In the wake of shootings at the Eaton Centre in June and at a Danzig Street block party in July, Chief Blair had officers work overtime in order to deploy more than 300 additional cops in the parts of the city most affected by crime. The project, which ended last weekend, cost about $2-million but saved money by preventing crimes, the chief argued.
“We spent money, but I think we have saved some money. More importantly, we saved some lives,” he said. “The safety of our city is something we are proud of, but it is something we will never become complacent about.”
On Friday, police brass tried to alleviate fears that, with the project over, crime would spike again.
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly said the force was trying to find ways of getting as many officers as possible out from behind desks and onto the street. He’s also adjusting the shift schedules of front-line patrol officers and detectives at local divisions to make sure more of them are working at times when the most crimes are committed.
On Friday, police tried to refute comparisons between this year and 2005 – the so-called Summer of the Gun – when two dozen people were killed by firearms. Since then, violent crime has steadily decreased in every major category. Crime overall has fallen by slightly less than a third.
“Our city is a safer place than it was then,” Chief Blair said.
He also responded to criticisms that his officers have been heavy-handed in their efforts to squelch the violence. Referring to a man who complained about people getting trespassing tickets at a community housing project, he said police were responding to residents’ concerns about people coming from outside the complex to deal drugs there.